How Will You Measure Your Life?

How Will You Measure Your Life?

One of the books that impacted me the most in recent years is “How will you measure your life?” by the late Harvard Professor, Clayton Christensen (of “The Innovator’s Dilemma” fame). In the book, he asks the reader a series of soul-searching questions to help us be more strategic – both in business and in life, and for those of you with children, the research he presents on parenting is truly fascinating.

Here is a small selection of key points that resonated with me from a business and personal perspective (greatly paraphrased):

Who do I want to become?

Many of us might measure our lives with statistics, such as the size of our organizations, the number of people we manage, the number of awards, or dollars accumulated; but the only metrics that truly matter in life are the number of people you have been able to help.

If you take the time to figure out your personal Core Purpose, you may look back on it as the most important thing you will ever have discovered.

What are my values?

In ancient Rome, emperors would send an associate off to govern a newly conquered territory thousands of miles away. As the emperors watched the chariot go over the hill, they knew full well they would not see them again for years, so they needed to know that their associate’s values and priorities were consistent with their own.

Core Values help an organization to become self-managing. Managers don’t need to be omnipresent to enforce the rules. People instinctively get on with it and do the right thing.

Core Values are formed through storytelling and teaching by example. With enough repetition, this way of doing things becomes the group’s culture. The parallels between a business and a family should be clear. Just like a manager who wants to be able to count on employees to behave in a similar way when conducting business, parents want to be able to count on their children to solve problems and confront issues instinctively, whether or not the parents are there guiding or observing.

For example, if you want your family to have a culture of kindness, the first time one of your children approaches a problem where acting with kindness is an option, help them to choose that option and to implement it. Or if they don’t choose it, discuss the event afterward and explain why they could have chosen differently.

What is my strategy?

You will be constantly pressured, both in business and at home, to give people and projects your attention. How do you decide who gets what? Whoever makes the most noise? Whoever grabs you first? You have to make sure that you allocate your time and resources in a way that is consistent with your priorities.

You can talk all you want about having Core Values, a Core Purpose, and Strategic Projects for your business or your personal life, but ultimately this means nothing if you are not investing your time and resources in a way that is consistent with your stated intentions.

In the words of Andy Grove of Intel: “To understand a company’s strategy, look at what they actually do rather than what they say they will do.”

I say something similar about people: “To understand your true priorities, take look at your purchase receipts, and what you actually spend your money on. Take a look at your calendar, and where you actually spend your time.”

Christensen writes that If you study the root causes of both business and personal disasters, you’ll find a tendency to pursue endeavors that offer immediate gratification, over endeavors that result in long-term success.

It’s well worth taking the time to consider the following questions from the perspective of both your organization and your personal life:

  • What is your Core Purpose?
  • What are your Core Values?
  • What are the small handful of Strategic Projects you are working on this year that will set you up for long-term success?
  • Are you acting consistently with these stated intentions above?
  • How will you measure your life?


Until next time…